2010 already notable in the cinema world for yet another Sherlock Holmes is now notable for yet another Robin Hood.
Ridley Scott makes it clear right from the start that the traditional view of Robin Hood is going to be challenged. His plot has Robin 'and his men returning from the Crusades with news of Richard's death to return the crown of England to new King John. To successfully reach England, Robin has to impersonate nobility,in the guise of Robert of Locksley, and take on the unpleasant duty of reporting the death of her husband to Lady Marion Locksley. Main obstacle is in the form of Lord Geoffrey, who seemingly loyal to the new king, is in league with the French king to invade England, thereby establishing himself as the principal villian. Mark Strong playing Geoffrey also played the devilish Lord in the new Sherlock Holmes.
Russell Crowe as Robin, is no Erroll Flynn and given his round physical shape at age 45, it is difficult to imagine him nimbly entering castle windows in like Flynn or even Kevin Costner, to rescue Marion. This puts him in a similar position to another old Robin Hood, Sean Connery, who in Robin and Marion in the late seventies, and same age as Crowe,had to die in character in that version.
Luckily for Crowe no such agility is needed, because Cate Blanchett's Lady Marion is quite capable of defending herself,knifing a would be rapist in one scene,or donning armour,like her Elizabeth I, to go into battle. Crowe as Robin is fairly stolid,and he is seen most often shooting arrows or on horseback wielding an axe. Blanchett as Marion so dominates her scenes that she steals the film for me. Her hair piece swinging wildly from her shoulders is great to admire too, and one is tempted to ask how she kept it in that condition, after all day toiling in the fields,or rallying her retainers for battle.
Other cliches of the legend are similarly demolished. Nottingham is not yet a city,but largely a collection of wood buildings with thatched roofs with holes in them, the later a very important point in one scene, when Marion has to escape from behind a locked door. Robin's arch enemy, is an unusually ineffectual Sheriff of Nottingham,and relegated to the sidelines in this version. Sherwood Forest is merely the haunt of a gang of marauding orphans, who harass Lady Marion on her estates. In other characterisations, Little John,Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck and Allen A dale behave not so much as merry men but more like a bunch of inglorious bastards. By the end the film has revealed itself to be a prologue to the real legend, after Robin successfully repels a French invasion and,along with saving England, finally getting a chance to rescue Lady Marion from death on the battlefield,he is declared an outlaw by a jealous King John, so he and Marion can both live seemingly happily ever after in Sherwood.
Like all Scott's films Robin Hood is stunningly beautiful to watch, and much attention has been paid to appropriate historical detail. This is however a bit irrelevant when the climactic battle, an attempted invasion of England by France of apparently D Day style proportions ,probably never happened, and for that matter Robin Hood himself does not seem to have really existed historically, except in ballads written in two different centuries. Like Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds is a fairy tale set in World War II, Scott's Robin Hood is a fairy tale set in the middle ages.